In every religious dispensation there have been many heroines distinguished from other members of their sex for their spiritual eminence. Such women have no doubt been numerous, but recorded history has cheated them of their rightful place, and thus have robbed civilization of knowledge of their words and deeds. These women have stood out more for manifesting divine attributes.
History, although crude and infected by misogyny, points to several standout women who generally shared the characteristics of one who has been closely associated with the founder of that religion, has discerned the light of truth shining through Him sharing the trouble-laden life of that manifestation of God, accepted suffering and afflictions in the path of His love. She has revealed the exemplary attributes of purity, fidelity, submission to the central authority, absolute certitude and modesty, has proven by her sacrificial deeds and long-suffering attitude.
In the Baha’i Faith many women of greatness lived and died in near obscurity from the world. However one such woman was a stand out of international fame. Tahirih lived during a time when one of the most despotic Kings of Persia ruled. Not only was she an eloquent speaker who spoke on behalf of women all over the world, but she was also a poetess of great beauty.
From an early age she demonstrated an unusual aptitude for learning that persuaded her father to educate her. In the society to which she was born, women were not normally educated. Her father, a renowned educator, allowed her to attend his classes from behind a curtain. She was unrivaled in exceptional knowledge, spiritual piety and eloquence and earned her veneration and respect from those who knew her and knew about her.
Tahirih was forced to marry at an early age, but could not still the stirring in her heart for her new found faith. As her knowledge increased she taught more people about her new religion and conducted classes. Her husband and father-in-law not only tried to poison her but forced her to abandon her children and leave her home.
We can appreciate the courage of Tahirih, in the midst of a large meeting without her veil, announcing to everyone gathered that she is the trumpet blast for the emancipation of women. Earlier parallels echo the position of Eve, the Virgin Mary and Fatima.
Finally unable to suppress this incredible woman, her death was arranged by her father-in-law and her estranged husband. Her death was not carried out without her choosing her white scarf with which she was strangled and not before she told her executioners, “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.”
She was thrown into a deep well. Indeed they could not, for the powers had been released into the world on that chilly night and nothing and no one would be the same again. By giving up her life, Tahirih had started the process of crushing traditions and superstitions that imprisoned women for centuries. Tahirih blazed a trail for all women to follow. As one historian said, if there were no other proof for the validity of the Baha’i Faith than the appearance of such a woman from that cesspool that was Persia at the time, as Tahirih, would be sufficient proof. Alone and undaunted Tahirih raised the clarion call for women all over the world.
Judi Panetta is a member of the Baha’i Faith.